Macworld Expo 2011: Gallery and report

It's no secret that Macworld, the formerly-ultimate pilgrimage for the Mac enthusiast and obsessive, has undergone an identity crisis.

It's no secret that Macworld, the formerly-ultimate pilgrimage for the Mac enthusiast and obsessive, has undergone an identity crisis.

Still based around Apple's timeframe of January announcements, even though the company turned its back on the event and its community, Macworld hit San Francisco's Moscone Center with an unexpected vengeance Thursday.

Last year when the iPad was shiny-new and jokes about its name made everyone throw a side-eye at early adopters, Macworld 2010 was a jumble of empty booths and sparse attendees warily regarding the Jobs-less main stage like a kid getting the memo they were the red-headed stepchild. Which was basically what Apple was saying to the expo community that had made the brand a phenom in it own right.

This year Macworld's expo floor opening day was packed. It was, in fact, annoying to try and navigate walking a few booths at a time. Interestingly, accessories targeted Apple and Android markets alike.

Mac geeks filled the place, not seeking Apple's culty benevolent attitude, but there for the cool gear and to see who was competing and innovating outside Apple's walled gardens.

It was a mix of those who grew up thinking different, and used car salesman mentality. I definitely didn't expect it to be jammed with attendees, or exciting and fun.

Visit Friday and see subversion (tuneupmedia.com) meet As Seen On TV creepiness (TV Hat). See cool accessories like Freehands gloves with conductive polyamyde tips (freehands.com) and luxmo's cassette tape iPhone 4 case, that vendors could not keep in stock past the afternoon -- and re-ordered to meet Friday buyer demand.

The Sinbad keynote was perplexing. But everyone loved seeing FastMac's ImpactShield smash an iPhone with a hammer (video) through its impact gel casing, over and over, only to wow at the phone emerging unscathed.

By far the two most popular Macworld hotspot booths are the must-have Fling iPad thumb joysticks and custom-culture-gadget-beautifiers by Gelaskins.

It's been a long time since an expo floor has been more than the sum of its booth babes or an untouchable product release: Macworld is interesting again. Still weird, yet well worth checking out.

See Macworld 2011 highlights, coolness and total Mac geek strangeness in the Macworld 2011 Expo gallery.